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Champions of Breakfasts

Jimi Famurewa reveals Britain’s 10 best morning menus

Hastily-grabbed slices of blackened toast, eggs like rubbery hockey pucks, gloopy bowls of instant porridge you could grout a bathroom with; for something regarded as the most important meal of the day, breakfast comes in for some shabby treatment. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are chefs up and down the country offering intriguing alternatives to the classic fry-up. ShortList loosened its belt a notch and tracked down the UK’s best breakfast venues.

LONDON

No67 Café

67 Peckham Rd, SE5; number67.co.uk

This café next to Camberwell’s hip South London Gallery has been serving up mini-masterpieces of its own for the past 18 months. Its small but perfectly formed breakfast menu is available until 3.30pm at the weekend and boasts more than a few drool-worthy options.There’s the hearty baked egg, tomato and pepper stew and a veggie breakfast — equipped with crispy halloumi and bubble and squeak — that will tempt even the most committed carnivore. But the star of the show is its patented Full Spanglish. A ludicrously tasty blend of eggs, griddled chorizo, mushrooms, peppery morcilla blood sausage, homemade baked beans and two slabs of sourdough toast drizzled with olive oil.

Perfect for: A bleary-eyed weekend brunch.

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MANCHESTER

The Koffee Pot

21 Hilton St, M1; thekoffeepot.co.uk

This haven of psychedelic murals, red pleather booths and sticky sauce bottles has long been a favourite among touring musicians and in-the-know Mancunians. In fact, Elbow frontman Guy Garvey is a devotee of its bacon butties.There are other options for the more adventurous early morning visitor, though: US-style steak and eggs served with decidedly British thick-cut chips, a Mexican-themed swirl of chorizo, peppers, chillies, egg and tortilla or the cracking smoked haddock rarebit.Throw in the wallet-friendly prices (the famed bacon sandwich is just £2) and it’s easy to see why you’ll need sharp elbows and a keen eye to bag a table at the weekend.

Perfect for: Home-cooked food and rock star spotting.

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LONDON

The Breakfast Club

Various locations; thebreakfastclubcafes.com

If you put ‘breakfast’ in your café name (and invoke a classic Eighties comedy while you’re at it) it’s fair to say that expectations will be high. But having sprouted in four different London locations (Angel, Hoxton, Soho and Spitalfields) in order to meet demand, TBC has proved its fry-up credentials.Its all-day menu is topped by a colossal Full Monty (featuring the usual suspects plus black pudding and hash browns), and is peppered with unusual alternatives.There are green eggs and ham (a pleasingly creamy mix of scrambled eggs, chives, ham and cheese), the gratifyingly messy breakfast burrito and bacon and banana French toast — a demented slice of diner-style Americana that’s more delicious than it has any right to be.

Perfect for: A cooler brand of client breakfast.

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GLASGOW

The Rio Café

27 Hyndland St, G11; theriocafe.com

An influx of classy bistros and cafés may have done their bit to help Glasgow shed its culinary reputation as the home of all things deep-fried, but The Rio Café is an old-fashioned sort of sensation.This pastel-painted collision of America’s, Italy’s and Britain’s peerless diner breakfasts have made it a firm West End favourite. Don’t be fooled by the Fifties decor and Fonz-worthy cracked leather booths, though. The laminated morning menu — headlined by the formidably enormous Rio Grande breakfast and a terrific Eggs Benedict — is decidedly Scottish. Think hearty porridge and potato scones.Plus, in the evenings the place is transformed into a lively music bar with jazz, open mic and superior soul nights on offer. Which means a late brunch could easily turn into a very late night...

Perfect for: A big-portioned blast from the past.

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LONDON

Riding House Café

43 Great Titchfield St, W1; ridinghousecafe.co.uk|left

This artfully battered brasserie featuring old theatre seats, mismatched tables and squirrel taxidermy on the walls provides a wood-panelled oasis in the bustle of London’s West End. Breakfast kicks off at a business-friendly 7.30am and the wealth of healthy options (including pumpkin seed-spiked muesli and avocado on toast with a wedge of lemon) are backed up by some genuine show-stoppers.There is the hefty chorizo hash brown topped with poached eggs and griddled mushrooms, plus creamy cured sea trout on toast. Factor in a substantial peanut butter and jelly smoothie (which comes in an old-school glass milk bottle) and you may find yourself having a contented nap halfway through the morning.

Perfect for: A full-bellied breakfast meeting.

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YORK

Bettys

6 St Helen’s Square, YO1; bettys.co.uk

This doily-filled Yorkshire institution may be most famous for its tea, cucumber sandwiches and Fat Rascal scones, but its breakfasts are not to be sniffed at.There are plenty of nods to Bettys’ unique Swiss heritage — it was founded by Alps-born Frederick Belmont — on the all-day menu including a perfectly assembled bowl of bircher muesli with zingy raspberry sauce.But we’re more inclined to recommend the cheese-slathered breakfast rosti, the bacon and gruyere croissant or a buttery plate of crumpet-like pikelets. And if the cake trolley happens to rattle over and tempt you afterwards, well, that wouldn’t be a disaster, would it?

Perfect for: Treating your family to a slap-up Sunday brunch.

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BRIGHTON

Bill's

The Depot, 100 North Rd, BN1; bills-website.co.uk

There are five Bill’s throughout England, but it’s the Brighton branch to which you should make a pilgrimage. It’s easy to see why the queue outside this legendary south coast cafe-cum-shop regularly stretches up the street. Initially, there’s nothing outwardly exceptional about the menu’s familiar run, ranging from breakfast butties to Eggs Florentine via fluffy buttermilk pancakes. But one look at the hulking square plate on which Bill’s Breakfast arrives and you’ll be sold. The toast is chunky, sausages are stout and high quality and there is the option to have a mustard-laced scoop of bubble and squeak on the side.Starting at £7.95 for a basic fry-up it’s not the most affordable breakfast in town, but the excellent food and atmosphere will have you slavishly joining the scrum outside. Alternatively, you can head to the website to book a weekday sitting.

Perfect for: A lazy, newspaper-rustling breakfast.

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LONDON

Banner’s

21 Park Rd, N8; bannersrestaurant.com

This Caribbean-influenced café is so popular that Londoners who live nowhere near Crouch End make the journey for a breakfast known to remedy even the heaviest night out.The expansive menu — decorated with local ads and childish drawings seemingly plucked from a nearby family fridge — is crammed with tantalising twists on traditional fare. There’s the Jamaican breakfast (which features spicy beans, hash browns and ackee), moreish gingerbread pancakes and Manx kippers on toast.However, we would go for the impressively fiery Banner’s Potatoes: two fried eggs on top of crispy spuds, onion, chilli and optional chunks of bacon.

Perfect for: Hangover-toppling spicy feasts.

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BIRMINGHAM

Utopia

16 Church St, B3; bar-utopia.co.uk

Breakfast shouldn’t cost a fortune just because it comes on a big white plate adorned with a sprig of parsley. That’s the attitude employed by this busy bar in the heart of Birmingham’s business district. Its signature breakfast, served from 9.30am, features sausages, egg, bacon, a potato waffle and French toast. Breakfast butties and smoked salmon with scrambled eggs are other highlights on a simple but well-made menu. And with regular seasonal offers — including a St Patrick’s Day brunch deal that comes with a pint of Guinness — it’s easy to see why this is a popular spot for fun, toast-heavy morning meetings.

Perfect for: A cheap, relaxed business breakfast.

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LONDON

Kopapa

32 Monmouth St, WC2; kopapa.co.uk Aussies and Kiwis may have a reputation for lackadaisical beach-lounging but they don’t mess about when it comes to breakfast and brunch. This swanky café is the latest Pacific-influenced eatery to spring up in London (kopapa is a Maori word for ‘a gathering’) and offers a healthier take on the griddled classics from 8.30am.Options range from the light (boiled eggs with Vegemite soldiers for dipping) to the fancy (ricotta fritters with avocado and pistachio caramel sauce). However, we would recommend the flaky, hot-smoked salmon on sourdough toast with spinach, poached eggs and a hollandaise sauce laced with Japanese yuzu fruit.

Perfect for: A vaguely virtuous start to the day.

(Images: Rex Features)

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